How Hamilton and Verstappen benefitted from their team mates’ sacrifices on Sunday

2021 British Grand Prix

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The championship fight between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen soared to new heights last weekend as the pair clashed on the opening lap of the British Grand Prix.

Verstappen counted the cost of a heavy impact with the barriers, while Hamilton controversially rebounded from a penalty to hack 25 points out of his rival’s championship lead.

But even with Verstappen unable to score, Red Bull found a way to use Sergio Perez to minimise their leading driver’s loss in the title fight. Meanwhile at Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas appeared more willing to play to role of dutiful number two driver than he did earlier in the season.

Six races ago in Spain, Bottas was called on to make way for Hamilton as he chased down Verstappen to win the race. But, just four races into the championship, the number 77 car appeared decidedly reluctant to pull aside.

Hamilton eventually threw a pass up the inside of his team mate at turn 10. Bottas didn’t dispute the corner, but the cost to Hamilton was clear – he lost up to one-and-a-half seconds making his way past Bottas on lap 52:

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2021
Bottas didn’t hold Hamilton up at Silverstone
The differences in how the same scenario unfolded at Silverstone are revealing. In Spain, where Hamilton was heading for his third win from the opening four races, Mercedes didn’t feel the need to force the issue with Bottas. He was told not to hold his team mate up, but no more.

Come Silverstone, with Hamilton not having won a race during the interval, Mercedes were determined not to pass up the opportunity. Bottas was give a firm “team order” instruction to make way for the other car.

He complied swiftly and the time loss was all his as Hamilton swiftly passed by on lap 40:

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How significant was this? Had Hamilton lost one-and-a-half seconds while passing his team mate again, he likely wouldn’t have caught race leader Charles Leclerc until the final lap of the race. That would have left Hamilton a single opportunity to pass, and the Ferrari driver might have been less “respectful” in defending his position with a win on the line on the last lap.

No doubt Mercedes took note of how much more compliant Perez was when he had to let Verstappen pass him at Paul Ricard three races earlier. Red Bull were ahead of their rivals in using their second driver to support their first, and found a new way for Perez to aid Verstappen’s cause at Silverstone.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Silverstone, 2021
Perez lost a point or more with extra pit stop
While hunting Leclerc down, Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race on the 45th lap, potentially pocketing the bonus point which went along with it.

Further back Perez, who had a dismal weekend after spinning in the sprint qualifying race, had just moved up to 10th place by elbowing his way past Kimi Raikkonen. He was gaining rapidly on three cars ahead and would likely have caught them in the final two laps.

However for Red Bull the possibility of Perez scoring a point ore more mattered less than the necessity of limiting the damage to Verstappen’s championship chances. So on lap 48 Perez was called in to fit a set of soft tyres and claim the fastest lap.

Red Bull did this even knowing that Perez wouldn’t score the bonus point, as it is only awarded to drivers who finish in the top 10, and pitting him would end his chances of doing that. But it meant depriving Hamilton of one more point.

Hamilton therefore left Silverstone eight points behind Verstappen. Thanks to his team mate it was less than it might have been, but thanks to Verstappen’s team mate it was slightly more.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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50 comments on “How Hamilton and Verstappen benefitted from their team mates’ sacrifices on Sunday”

  1. This is true, but had Perez had not made the unforced error on Saturday, Red Bull could have got some championship points AND deprived Hamilton of fastest lap. Very badly timed off weekend for Perez. A test of his focus and resolve coming up, especially as we head into silly season….

    (FWIW, i think he’ll stay at Red Bull as they will want stability in drivers given new regulations)

    1. I was very surprised he did not do any better than this. It seemed like hot conditions suited RB this week, and tyre deg was higher on the rears on this track, which is something Perez usually manages well. Maybe it was all down to the bad set-up for racing/overtaking? Verstappen also had poor straight-line speed.

  2. It looks like everyone (including the teammates) has accepted that the only 2 contenders for the title this year are HAM and VER.

    1. Forgot to add: so early in the season…

      1. I think everyone understood that RB would have one contender long before the season started. And unless Bottas came out of the blocks as he has never done before that Ham would be their man at Mercedes. The only one in Merc who seemed confused by that was Bottas himself who seemed under the impression that him finishing second to Max in Spain was preferable to a Ham/Mercedes win. And I might add, very nice of Ham after the race to apologies to Bottas in case he held him up when he overtook him.
        As for Silverstone, I doubt whether even Hams/Mercedes harshest critics would expect Mercedes to throw away a pretty obvious win to allow Bottas some belief that he is still in the WDC hunt. Particularly as he couldnt even stay with Ham to collect a second place once passed and had shown no sign of getting anywhere near LeClerc.
        What was on show though at Silverstone was a clear signal from RB that the WDC has precedence over their own WCC.

        1. As for Silverstone, I doubt whether even Hams/Mercedes harshest critics would expect Mercedes to throw away a pretty obvious win to allow Bottas some belief that he is still in the WDC hunt.

          Very true. Bottas had no chance of catching Leclerc, Hamilton had a very good chance. There were 3 options:
          – Hold station, accept 2-3
          – Order the switch, good chance of a 1-3
          – Allow them to race, risk double DNF or less than 2-3, no chance for better than option 2.

          It was a no brainer, any team principal would have made the same call.

          As for RB, my wife called it petty, but I would have made the same call. They gave up a point (or possibly 2-3 if Perez actually passed 1-2 of those in front) for Perez and in the WCC. However, they cost their main rivals a point in both WCC and the WDC champion battle. Again, practically a no brainer.

          1. The speed difference was such that hamilton could’ve probably overtaken bottas without team order and still caught leclerc.

          2. Maybe so, but there would have been a risk of a crash for no benefit to the team, as well as the possibility of Hamilton being delayed and not passing Leclerc. A bunch of risk with nothing to gain. Why would they?

    2. F1oSaurus (@)
      20th July 2021, 13:47

      @ldom In the post race interviews, Bottas was quite frank in agreeing that he’s out of contention for the title yes. Red Bull have the faster car and Bottas is already almost 3 full race wins behind Verstappen.

      1. But still driving the fastest car and still able to win the championship for drivers.
        So it’s very clear, even to bottas now he will never win as long as Lewis is driving.

  3. Perez: Captain Phillips meme: “Look at me, i’m the wingman now”

    Pathetic. I hope RB lose the WCC by the point they might have gained if Perez was allowed to try for 9th.

    1. RandomMallard (@)
      20th July 2021, 11:38

      It won’t make a difference. If Perez had scored 1 point, Hamilton would have had 26 (win + FLAP), a difference of 25. As it stood, Perez got nothing and Hamilton got 25, also a difference of 25 points. Was it a bit of an annoying move, yes. But it won’t make a difference.

      1. @randommallard Yes but the fact is that Perez had a chance to take more than one point. As stated in the article he was closing on the pack of Alonso, Stroll and Ocon so could have potentially taken up to 6 points for the constructors. Probably unlikely that he would have had time to overtake more than one of them, but still interesting that Redbull decided not to give him the chance and to prioritise taking 1 point off Hamilton in the drivers’ championship instead.

        1. Redbull decided not to give him the chance

          Seeing how much time it took for Perez to complete overtakes after closing in, that chance would have been very, very slight.

          1. They may have factored that in, along with the fact it was a DRS chain he would be chasing. Although he would have had a much bigger tyre advantage at that stage having already pitted twice than the one stoppers ahead in this case so it should have been easier to pass, if he could catch them in time.

          2. RandomMallard (@)
            20th July 2021, 14:02

            @keithdin I think there is also the possibility that Perez could have got a penalty for the very elbows out move on Raikkonen, in which case they may have lost those positions anyway. Even as an RB fan I’m quite surprised he wasn’t penalised tbh. But yes as asz points out he was taking a very long time to moves.

          3. RandomMallard (@)
            20th July 2021, 14:02

            I’ll tag you properly @keithedin

      2. @randommallard But Perez himself believes he would have finished in P7 if allowed to continue racing. That’s six points in the WCC. It’s the WCC that pays the prize money, not the WDC. But Red Bull are so obsessed with Verstappen winning the WDC that it seems they’re prepared to possibly sacrifice the WCC to achieve this.

        1. RandomMallard (@)
          20th July 2021, 16:29

          @scbrriml Ah I wasn’t aware of that beforehand. I think he may have been a bit optimistic with that predictiom though. We’ve seen how difficult it was for him, or pretty much anyone, to pass, and there was then another 2 second gap to close up to Stroll, and another 2 seconds to Alonso, all of which could possibly have been in just 2 laps

      3. Annoying? Not to me, getting back at unsportsmanlike people sounds good to me (taking away the point from hamilton).

    2. Starting to look like Gasly and Albon, rb pits him any time he is stuck. Frankly the last pitstop was not the problem he was not looking good for 9th, that pitstop was a big mistake, he was not going to do any better, at least the last pistop was useful.

      1. It was his first pitstop that puzzled me, getting rid of his set of Hards while many on the Mediums had not even pitted yet.
        He might have had a better chance to overtake others if he got his Mediums later, when the others had rubbed the shine of their Hards.

        1. Indeed, but he probably flat spotted them so a change was necessary.

  4. I just hope neither of the two teams will “manage” to replicate what Ferrari did with the seal on the gearboxes of Felipe Massa in 2012 (twice I think?).

    1. I only remember that happening once, at the United States Grand Prix.

      1. Christopher Murgatroyd
        20th July 2021, 16:23

        Plus the number 2’s would have to qualify ahead!

  5. I have an idea. Wouldn’t it be better if we look at the drivers who finished top 10 and had set the fastest lap among the top 10 irrespective of whether or not it was a fastest lap in the whole race?

    1. @rockgod Frankly I’d prefer going back to not awarding the point at all, it doesn’t really add anything to race weekends. But accepting that it’s here, you’re right, the implementation is poor. Awarding it at some races but not others is inelegant and inconsistent.

      1. We’ve seen teams go for an addition pit stop and the risks that come along with it for just 1 point @keithcollantine. I’d say it’s still amusing to watch.

        1. @rockgod I want them to stay out racing to the end. The end of last year’s British Grand Prix would have been even more exciting had Verstappen not come in for ‘fastest lap tyres’ before Hamilton’s failed.

          1. @keithcollantine
            I agree, that would be nice, but they normally don’t, do they. Without the FL point, 9 times out of 10 they sit back and protect their tyres. At least if they gain a point for fastest lap, people do push to try and get it even if it won’t gain them a position, taking some risks at times to do so.

          2. I know the contrivance would not be appreciated, but they could easily state that fastest lap would not be awarded to any driver changing tyres within the last 5 laps.

            The main problem with this is that a team could still “pull a Perez” to take the point away from another, and I don’t think you could regulate for that unless you called it the “DHL Fastest Lap – by a driver who hasn’t just changed their tyres – Award.

    2. RandomMallard (@)
      20th July 2021, 11:42

      @rockgod I agree. Some other championships do this I think. I’m not 100% sure, but the wording in the regs for Formula 2 pre-2021 and Fornula E are less specific than F1’s in this regard, and I think that has certainly happened a few times before. I think it’s the logical answer though.

  6. After the race, Hamilton was advocating for Bottas as a teammate harder than I’ve ever heard him before. He was really emphasising that he’d never had a teammate who is as much of a team player and how great that was for the team. I’m not one who believes Hamilton has anything in his contract which specifies he will be the no.1 driver or have a veto on who gets to drive in the second car, but he has now publicly made it very clear he has a strong preference for Bottas to stay on at Mercedes.

    1. Have you ever seen a No1 driver rubbish the No2 whilst he still needs him? But then you have Russell over the last couple of years regularly thanking Ham for his help and advice. So why has Ham been doing that if he knows Russell will eventually be his teammate?

    2. Hamilton might be trying to keep Bottas motivated during the rest of this season, given he knows he’ll need more of the teamwork Bottas showed at Silverstone to maximise his WDC chance against Max (who he knows has Perez who will do the same thing for Red Bull). It might not really be about future seasons.

  7. Perez, who had a dismal weekend after spinning in the sprint qualifying race, had just moved up to 10th place by elbowing his way past Kimi Raikkonen. He was gaining rapidly on three cars ahead and would likely have caught them in the final two laps.

    Perez was nowhere near overtaking Ocon for 9th. He was 10s behind with 4 laps to go, just slightly faster, and proved to be dismal at overtaking the midfield.
    Easy decision for RBR, exchange 1point for Perez against 1 point less for Lewis.

    If Perez were half the driver he should be then he had set the fastest lap whilst in 10th and chasing position 9.

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      20th July 2021, 13:42

      Perez was actually 8 seconds behind Ocon and was closing up at 2 seconds per lap. So yeah he was on his way to fighting for P9

      1. You cannot take his inlap as a full lap as they cut Vale/Club.
        Before he entered the pit he was 9.045 behind.
        If he could’ve made that up in 4 laps then he’d have the FLAP anyway.

        1. F1oSaurus (@)
          20th July 2021, 16:05

          jff So you make up yet another number? The actual fact is that before Perez went into the pit he was 8s behind and 2s a lap faster than Ocon.

          If he could’ve made that up in 4 laps then he’d have the FLAP anyway.

          He was going 2s per lap faster than Ocon. Not enough for FLAP, but enough for P9.

          1. Wrong! Clown.
            Just check the mini sector times, or rerun the race on F1TV.
            9.045 gap in last mini sector before entering the pit.
            And yes, if gaining that time on Ocon in the last four laps there would have been a FLAP in it! You need to pass the guy as well for position, not just cling onto his gearbox.
            But what do you know.

  8. Yes, both both Lewis and Max have huge advantages from their second driver. Its equal between them.

  9. F1oSaurus (@)
    20th July 2021, 13:41

    How was Bottas sacrificed?

    It’s not like Hamilton wasn’t going to get past him. So he would have lost that position anyway. Bottas didn’t see it as a sacrifice either.

    Now Perez giving up P10 and potentially more since he was in the hunt for P9 etc, was indeed a sacrifice

    1. True, but Bottas could have cost Hamilton 3 or 4 seconds had he tried to fight him. Those seconds might have allowed Leclerc the win.

      1. Hardly a sacrifice though. No reasonable driver will deliberately hold up a teammate who is 1s a lap faster and on for the win. In the same way that when they were told they could fight in Austria Ham said, no I’ll let Bottas past.
        Or being cynical I would imagine that after Bottas’s little games in Spain he would have been told, stick to your contractual obligations otherwise you are sacked.
        And as we now know, RB are willing to sacrifice their WCC to land the WDC. So the WCC for Mercedes is still a possibility. Hence no holding each other up.

  10. Bottas in the post race interview looked like a sad little bird.
    Had to provide a tow in quali.
    Should have been on first row P2 with Ham to block Max on preferred P3
    Would have had to pit to get in front of Max if possible in a normal race.
    Would have had to take away fast round point if Ham couldn’t get it.
    There is nothing this man races for than helping Lewis. You could call it team work, but there is no other rider with such inferior position in the team. It is just too much when one rider from all riders is not allowed to race for him self. That means also that Hamilton’s position for WC must be very weak.

    1. Pérez is racing only to help Verstappen. That’s what RB was looking for when they hired him. Horner never denied that (see Drive to Survive season 3).
      As for

      That means also that Hamilton’s position for WC must be very weak.

      Given that RB had the fastest car by a good margin in recent races (Pérez who has never been famous for his qualifying abilities unlike Hamilton, qualifies in front of Lewis), you are absolutely right.

      1. Dude, are you for real?! THE FACTS MATTER, not your words, ideas and impressions, Wolff’s interviews etc. BOT was used with high success as a roadblock to opponents, give HAM a tow, offer HAM his own win on a platter etc. Perez at the moment is not really helping anybody, not even himself. He lacks consistency big time, and so far he’s no improvement over GAS, KVY or ALB. Look where he finished Sunday with what you call “the best car”. Mercedes with HAM and BOT took the ”no.1 and no.2 formula” to new heights.

  11. It was disappointing to see PER fail to score even more points. The best tyre manager on the grid looked was way below par.

  12. I wouldn’t compare these too much because there’re too many BIG differences. 1st, HAM won 6 WDCs, too many wins and PPs to count anymore IN THE LAST 7 YEARS. After rewriting pretty much all most important records, to still ask your team mate to crawl for you, that’s more like greed… or something else that isn’t a quality. 2nd, BOT is in the 5th year alongside HAM, to still play him like a puppet as if he’s just a rookie, new in the team etc… is too much. Not to mention that HAM (maybe even the team) still owe him at least 1 win. I think he deserves more respect now and maybe HAM should play 2nd to him now, maybe he can win a WDC. 3rd, RBR did not win any title since 2013, and their portofolio of wins and PPs did not improve significantly either since 2013. 4th, VER is not a champion. So, I find excusable for a team that hasn’t won anything major in almost 1 decade + a non-champion driver to make use of team orders etc few times, not anymore for a team that has won pretty much everything and set new records in the last 7 years. Plus, that 1 point “gained” by VER via PER is some help a little too small compared to those 10points facilitated by BOT.

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